On 6/3/1999 at 6:55 p.m., FDNY Ladder 173 and Engine 331 received a phone alarm for a fire at 150-28 127th Street in Howard Beach, Queens, New York. “Upon entering the block, Engine 331 transmitted a 10-75 for a fire in a 20- x 40-foot, one-story private dwelling with a heavy smoke condition coming from the side entrance. The Captain entered the side door with his can man, a probationary firefighter, and a firefighter with the irons. Immediately, they went down to the basement to locate the fire. As they reached the base of the stairs toward the front of the building, they encountered high heat, zero visibility, and a Collyer’s mansion-type condition (hoarding). Undaunted by the intense conditions and employing his years of experience, the Captain led the firefighters through the heat and clutter to try to locate the fire. The inconceivable volume of rubbish, household supplies, and furniture that Ladder 173 and Engine 331 confronted impeded their efforts and made even the smallest progress time-consuming…Engine 331 now had a 1-¾” hand line down the stairs, and with no visible fire, the basement was crowded and chaotic with little room to work. Crawling over waist-high rubble, freeing themselves of entanglements and moving obstructions, the Captain and Ladder 173’s inside team finally made it to the room that contained the main fire. Following the Captain’s directions, Engine 331 traced Ladder 173’s path to the fire area with the hand line. Ladder 173, now trying to find access to the main body of fire, found this room encased with shelving and boxes. The only fire Engine 331 was able to hit with its hose stream was the rollover of burning gases at the ceiling level. Amid all the noise and confusion, the Captain’s voice could be heard, calmly directing the operations. After several minutes of searching for access in claustrophobic conditions, the heat in the room started to bank down. At this point, the Captain realized that the initial attack was making no headway and that conditions were deteriorating. When several members’ Vibralert® alarms activated, the Captain reluctantly ordered both companies to withdraw from the basement and notified Battalion 39. Fearing for the safety of his men, the Captain called out to his forcible entry team and specifically, probationary firefighter personally to ensure his proby’s safe retreat. Certain that everyone was in front of him and that he would be the last man to leave the fire area, the Captain and firefighters started to make their way out. Tragically, the obstructions that had slowed their advance now impeded their withdrawal. The Captain (along with several members of both companies) depleted his self-contained breathing apparatus (SCBA) cylinder before he could reach the basement stairs. He was forced to remove his facepiece in a highly contaminated atmosphere. Hot, toxic gases entered his lungs, but the Captain, still composed, kept his position in the rear, ensuring that every member got to the stairs before he did. Realizing the gases were about to bring him to the verge of collapse and he would not be able to extricate himself and the probationary firefighter from the basement, the Captain then uttered his final orders, “Don’t panic. I’m going to transmit a mayday.” Unfortunately, the Captain became disoriented and never had the opportunity to radio that mayday message. But, the firefighter didn’t panic. He stayed with the Captain, shared his mask with him, and tried to assist him. The Captain collapsed, and the firefighter tried to remove his officer until relieved by a firefighter from Squad 270, who gave a mayday. The Captain’s final concerns were not for his safety but for his fellow firefighters. While directing the withdrawal of his men, he performed in the finest traditions of the New York City Fire Department. Due to his selfless commitment to the safety of his troops and the people of New York City, he was honored posthumously.”
On 6/3/1857 a Philadelphia, Pennsylvania firefighter died while operating at a fire, which destroyed a commercial building. He was crushed to death when he was caught under a collapsing wall.
On 6/3/1892 two Omaha, Nebraska firefighters died from the injuries they sustained in a collapse at the Shiverick Furniture Store fire at 1206 Farnum.
On 6/3/1895 a District of Columbia (Washington DC) firefighter died while operating at a fire at a stable on #710 North Capitol Street N.W. He was overcome by heat and smoke and died as a result.
On 6/3/1912 a fire destroyed the Lion Motor Car factory in Adrian, Michigan, and killed a firefighter who was struck by falling walls.
On 6/3/1933 a Philadelphia, Pennsylvania firefighter died from injuries he sustained after a wall collapsed at the Byberry Mattress Factory.
On 6/3/1940 two Portland, Oregon firefighters died after they responded to a fire at the Portland Furniture Manufacturing Company at 5331 SW Macadam Avenue. “The first arriving company, Engine 10, laid a hose line into a wood drying kiln that was on fire. When they opened the door, heavy smoke poured out and the men retreated to get their canister smoke masks. Engine 4, located at SW 4th and Montgomery, arrived soon after. Three firefighters, already wearing canister-type breathing masks, entered the building with a hose line. After entering the dense smoke, one firefighter experienced problems and had to leave to adjust his mask. When he returned, he discovered one firefighter lying on the floor. He pulled him toward the door but was unable to continue and exit to get more help, eventually getting him out. A Captain found the other firefighter and carried him from the building. Neither responded to a lengthy attempt at resuscitation.”
On 6/3/1963 a San Francisco, California firefighter “died of the injuries he sustained while working at the Simmons Company fire, at Powell and North Point.”
On 6/3/1992 a North York, Ontario, Canada firefighter “became lost on the 2nd-floor of a Building on Valleybrook Drive on June 2nd. He was pulled from the building unconscious and was rushed to the hospital, where he never regained consciousness and died.”
On 6/3/2013 a poultry processing plant in Dehui in Jilin province of China killed 119 people after a fire started in a locker room during shift change. Workers describe chaos and panic as the lights went out while the building filled with smoke, and found exits blocked or locked. The plant established in 2009, produced some 67,000 tons of chicken products per year and employed 1,200. The plant used an ammonia refrigeration system, that may have caused or enhanced the fire.
On 6/3/2015 a graduate student at Georgetown University in Washington, DC, and a 24-year-old man died during a two-alarm off-campus housing fire in a three-story rowhouse in the 1600 block of Riggs Place, NW. shortly after 2:30 a.m. Both victims were found on the third floor. Firefighters had difficulty gaining access because of security bars on the first-floor windows in the building not licensed by the city, as required, for rental units. From 2000 to 2015, 170 people died in college/university-related fires, 87% occurring in off-campus occupancies, according to Campus Firewatch. Common factors in these fires include missing or disabled smoke alarms, careless disposal of smoking materials, lack of a second exit, and fires starting in couches on porches or decks.
On 6/3/1989 a leaking pipe and explosion near Asha, Russia (USSR) caused two trains to catch fire; 460 died. Caused by the poor judgment of pipeline workers, who failed to follow standard procedure and check for a leak, they pumped more natural gas through the line. The leaking gas settled in a low area near the rail tracks. Two approaching trains on the Trans-Siberian Railway ignited the gas causing a massive fireball and derailment.
On 6/3/1905 a Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania theater with over 1,200 in attendance was destroyed by fire; no one was seriously injured. The fire started in the “gridiron” above the stage.
On 6/3/1897 a circus tent fire in Lynn, Massachusetts killed two and injured several in a small sideshow tent that was illuminated by gasoline torches from a tank about 50 feet from the main tent. Fumes ignited the tent. “The tent was well filled and all became greatly excited and attempted to get out. Several crawled under the canvas and escaped uninjured. Those who tried to get out by the entrance were not so fortunate, as here the heat was intense, and six persons were badly burned.”
On 6/3/1897 the Alexandria, Virginia conflagration burned the entire block bounded by the Strand, Duke, Union, and Prince Streets. Principally warehouses and manufacturing properties were heavily damaged by a fire that started at a fertilizing mill on the riverfront in the early morning.
On 6/3/1839 the town of Port Gibson, Mississippi was destroyed by fire.